The Marrying of Chani Kaufman was nominated for the Man Booker Prize and tells the tale of a curious Orthodox Jewish girl who is next to be married. Although the story is a bit slow at times, it is very interesting to learn about the mores and customs experienced by this religious group. The story blends the lives of Chani, her parents, Baruch (her husband to be) and the Rabbi and his wife, Rivka, ending on the wedding night.
Chani grew up as one of eight daughters in a very busy, devout and poor household. She was spirited and at times found herself in trouble at school. She had met and turned down a number of suitors before meeting Baruch. Once engaged, she met with the Rabbi’s wife to prepare for her marriage and had many questions that both her mother and the Rabbi’s wife could not (or would not) answer.
Baruch, saw Chani at a wedding and was very keen to meet her despite the disapproval from his own mother. Through a matchmaker, the couple met although his mother tried to discourage their relationship due to the differences in social status. Baruch was persistent and after four dates asked Chani to marry him. The groom to be was also very curious about the wedding night but the young couple were left to discover each other without any guidance or education.
The Rabbi and Rivka had met in Jerusalem during a time when neither was orthodox. The Rabbi grew into the devout religion and his wife chose to follow, giving up freedom of dress, diet and accepting Orthodox ways or life, marriage and child rearing. After dealing with loss, her own son’s challenges and a feelings of unhappiness in her marriage and lifestyle, the Rabbi’s wife struggled with her own choices.
As the characters struggle with their commitment to their faith balanced with their duties and their strong sense of communities they learn more about their own strengths. The novel is interesting and educates the reader about the Orthodox faith. It gives a perspective of other’s religion balancing faith, community and choice.